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NZ Undermines Precaution In Toxics Treaty

NEW ZEALAND UNDERMINES PRECAUTION IN TOXICS TREATY

Auckland/ Johannesburg – 8 December 2000: New Zealand today joined forces with, Australia, Japan, USA and Canada in an attempt to shred precautionary and preventative action on protecting human health and the environment from toxic chemicals.

This move comes over half way through the final negotiations on an international toxics treaty being negotiated this week in Johannesburg, South Africa. The treaty is aiming to eliminate 12 dangerous organochlorine chemicals. However the treaty provides for further chemicals to be added to this list.

“This is very disappointing from New Zealand who has signed up to a precautionary approach in another international agreements such as the Biosafety Protocol and the 1992 Rio Declaration”, said Sue Connor, Greenpeace toxics campaigner. “Furthermore, New Zealand together with Australia, argued only last year that the precautionary principle was a customary norm of international law binding on all nations”.

“In a paper submitted to the meeting and introduced by New Zealand, these countries had struck out from previous draft text, the reference to precaution in assessing whether chemicals had characteristics of persistent organic pollutants and therefore whether they need to be added to this toxics treaty”, said Connor.

“It seems that these countries have learnt nothing from the experiences of the past with the chemicals already targeted by this toxics treaty”, said Connor. “Chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenols and dieldrin, were once considered safe. But experience has shown that they are among some of the most dangerous chemicals known to humans and reinforces the need to be cautious were there is uncertainty about the chemicals”.

“This is a very disappointing move by New Zealand, especially as it had indicated on Tuesday that it could agree to the elimination of all of the 12 chemicals targeted by the toxics treaty, including dioxins”, said Connor. “This showed that New Zealand was able to support the majority of nations in the important aim to eliminate these 12 dangerous chemicals and protect human health”.

“The negotiations will continue for the next two days and Greenpeace urges New Zealand to stand up and protect human health and the environment from POPs “, said Connor. “The only way to achieve this when dealing with dangerous chemicals is to take a precautionary and preventative approach.”

Sue Connor is available for interviews from Johannesburg after 6pm New Zealand time on +61 401 770 396. Logan Petley is available (in N.Z) for information on mobile: 025 828 028

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